An investigation is underway after nine cattle were stolen in south Co. Armagh over the weekend, according to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

Police in Newtownhamilton are investigating the theft of nine black bullocks from the Whitecross area of the county.

It is believed that the cattle were taken some time on Friday, August 11. The PSNI is encouraging anyone who may have any information on the incident to come forward.

Livestock is among the top 10 things targeted by criminals when carrying out a theft on a farm, according to a recent report published by NFU Mutual – a company which claims to be the UK’s leading rural insurer.

The rural crime report for 2017 indicated that the cost of livestock theft across the UK dropped from £2.9 million (€3.2 million) in 2015 to £2.2 million (€2.4 million) last year, representing a decrease of about 24% year-on-year.

One of the major trends that the report revealed was that ongoing livestock theft is raising concerns that stock is being stolen for slaughter and processing outside regulated abattoirs, before illegally entering the food chain.

According to the report, the cost of rural theft in the UK fell by 4.3% in 2016 compared to the previous year; but figures for early 2017 suggest it is rising again.

Overall, the cost of rural crime across the entire UK dropped from £41 million (€45 million) in 2015 to £39.2 million (€43.1 million) last year, figures show.

Last year, the cost of rural crime in Northern Ireland decreased by £500,000 (€550,000) to £2.5 million (€2.75 million) – this represented a decrease of 14.9% year-on-year.